February 11, 2013

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LTE- Phenomenal Pace in Next Generation Networks Evolution

LTE adaptation and growth around the world as next generation mobile broadband technology is not only a claim now, but an affirmation, based on the various analytical data available today. According to the “Ericsson Mobility Report” published on 22 Nov 2012, LTE is currently being deployed and built-out in almost all regions of the world, and is expected to cover approximately 50% of the world’s population by 2017.

 

Also, from the Ericsson report on global mobile subscription data, there is a remarkable growth in mobile “broadband” subscriptions, 55% YOY and currently reaching approximately 1.5 billion subscriptions.  In continuation, LTE is going to dominate, and is expected to have almost 1.6 billion subscriptions out of the expected 6.5 billion “broadband” subscriptions by 2018.

 

 

This adaptation and growth could be attributed to the facts the LTE is known for – it is a technology which provides capacity gain, spectrum efficiency and low latency on one hand, and ubiquitous IP connectivity on the other. That facilitates operators with the means to manage and provide services to cater to the demand rising from next generation applications and devices. The “GSA Report on LTE Growth” states that 40% of all phones sold during Q3 2012 were smartphones, and smartphone data traffic is expected to exceed the overall average data on mobile devices. Further, having a current view on mobile data traffic, growth has doubled between Q3 of 2011 and 2012, and is expected to be 12 times that between 2012 and 2018.

 

LTE has gone through major changes in network architecture from the other 3GPP technologies like 2G and 3G. This change is referred to as SAE (system architecture evolution) at mobile core with all IP paradigm and Evolved UTRAN at radio access. LTE is also harmonizing with other 3GPP and non-3GPP technologies toward the standardization for unification of network policies for seamless connectivity, simplified roaming, etc. LTE is being adapted as the natural evolution of existing mobile networks by operators and vendors, resulting in standard approaches of equipment developments, integration and operation and management that ease technological upgrades, rollouts and interoperability.

 

This evolutionary growth has turned LTE into a global phenomenon today. GSA has re-affirmed LTE as the fastest developing technology ever, and is being recognized globally as mainstream technology. This is supported by the data provided by GSA through its recent analytics and survey from around the globe.

 

 

 

 

LTE operates in two modes of operation – FDD and TDD. FDD is the most adapted worldwide and TDD is also gaining volume. FDD works on a paired spectrum band while TDD works on an unpaired spectrum band. Both modes of operation are equivalent. LTE is utilizing and being tuned to work on almost all kinds of available spectrum bands for the cause of widespread geographical coverage. LTE can be deployed in existing 2G or 3G bands and in new spectrums such as 2.6 GHz, that is augmented by  digital dividend bands (700 or 800 MHz, depending on the region) and also the AWS spectrum (1.7/2.1 GHz, typically in the US). The main capacity band in most regions is 2.6 GHz. There is high interest in using the re-farmed 2G spectrum for LTE, especially 1,800 MHz, and in a few cases 900 MHz, as most regulators now adopt a technology-neutral approach. The 1,800 MHz spectrum is widely accepted for LTE FDD mode deployment, and over 40% of commercial LTE network deployments are using the 1,800MHz spectrum.

 

 

LTE TDD is also gaining volume and interest, with 13 commercial launches and 21 additions in the pipeline.

 

 

According to the “GSA LTE Ecosystem Report,” published on November 23, 2012, there was a 3X  increase in LTE device products with a 73% increase in new manufacturers in a year’s timeframe. This data spans across brands, spectrum and the FDD and TDD modes.

 

LTE is being endorsed by ITU, IMT Advanced – the technology setting the path for next generation networks evolution. As with 3GPP standards, release 10-11 and above are providing LTE advance features and being set to be compliant to IMT-advance requirements for next generation networks evolution.

 

There will be consistent focus on LTE networks from the operation efficiency point of view, as the following points will dominate on LTE network deployments and services:

 

1. Capacity gain with high efficiency, i.e. high throughput of data with low unit cost in the given spectrum

2. Performance management and user experience with service assurance

 

The allure of LTE is generating new confidence in the ecosystem as a whole, as the pace is unlimited and there is a tremendous scope of opportunities and innovations.

 

References:

[1] “GSA, evolution to LTE Report” published on 08 Jan 2013

[2] “GSA, update LTE developments worldwide” published on 08 Jan 2013

[3] “GSA, LTE ecosystem report” published on 23 Nov 2012

[4] “Ericsson mobility report” published on 22 Nov 2012

References for images: same

References are available in GSA site “http://www.gsacom.com/gsm_3g/info_papers